Do Students Pay For Prescriptions? | TOTUM
Holly BarrowMarch 2nd

Do university students pay for prescriptions?

If you’re a university student in the UK, you may be wondering whether you’re entitled to free prescriptions or whether students have to pay for prescriptions. 

We take a look at who is eligible for free prescriptions, how much prescriptions currently cost in 2023, and whether this changes depending on where in the UK you are based. 


What is a prescription?

A prescription is essentially a way for medical professionals to communicate to a pharmacist that they have authorised a patient to be issued with a certain medication or treatment. 

You’ll usually be given a prescription in the form of a small piece of paper to be given to the pharmacist, outlining the recommended medication/treatment along with how much the patient should be given, signed off by a doctor. 

How much are prescriptions?

In England, NHS prescription charges may vary depending on your personal circumstances and whether you’re eligible for help with healthcare costs, however generally the cost is £9.35 per prescription. 

In Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, prescriptions are free regardless of your age, income or any other factors. 

You will be required to pay for prescriptions in England once you’re over the age of 16 unless you’re in full-time education or eligible for help, which we’ll explain below. 


Who gets free prescriptions?

In England, you will not be required to pay for prescriptions if: 

  • You are 60 or over 

  • You are under 16 

  • You are aged 16-18 and in full-time education

  • You are pregnant or have had a baby in the previous 12 months and have a valid maternity exemption certificate 

  • You have a specified medical condition and have a valid medical exemption certificate 

  • You have a continuing physical disability and have a valid medical exemption certificate 

  • You have a valid war pension exemption certificate and the prescription is for your accepted disability

  • You are an NHS inpatient

Do students pay for prescriptions?

Students aged 18 or under and still in full-time education are not required to pay for prescriptions in England, however those aged 19 and over will have to pay for prescriptions for most medication/treatment unless they’re exempt, but it’s important to note that contraceptives and medication given to hospital inpatients are always free of charge. 

Students may, however, be eligible for help with prescription and other healthcare costs (e.g. dental care and eye tests/glasses) if they meet certain criteria. 

If you are a student entitled to income support and you receive income-based benefits, you will automatically be eligible for free prescriptions. 


If you’re on contribution-based benefits or Universal Credit, you’re not automatically entitled to free prescriptions - this depends on your take-home pay in the last assessment period. 

As mentioned above, if you have a valid medical exemption certificate or a valid maternity exemption certificate, you will be entitled to free NHS prescriptions. 

Students on low income

Some students will be entitled to help with healthcare costs including prescriptions under the NHS Low Income Scheme. 

If you have an income of less than £16,000 per year (including any savings, investments or property you may have not exceeding this amount), you will be eligible for support with NHS costs including prescriptions. 

Under the Low Income Scheme, you may be eligible for either a HC2 or a HC3 certificate. Students in England can apply for the NHS Low Income Scheme here

What is a HC2 certificate?

If you apply for the NHS Low Income Scheme and are deemed eligible for full help with health costs, you will not have to pay for:

  • Prescriptions

  • Dental care 

  • Eye tests 

You’ll also receive help with glasses/contact lenses costs and the cost of travelling to receive NHS treatment. 


What is a HC3 certificate?

The HC3 certificate grants you partial help with health costs, meaning you may not be covered for the full amount but will pay less than would typically be required. 

Unfortunately, this does not cover prescriptions, meaning you will still have to pay for prescriptions in full even if you have a valid HC3 certificate. 

What is a prescription prepayment certificate and can students get one?

Looking for another way to save on prescription costs as a student? The prescription prepayment certificate is ideal for those with multiple prescriptions. 

If you need more than three items in three months or 11 items in 12 months, you’ll save money with the prescription prepayment certificate. 

Students can pay for a certificate to begin saving on prescription costs. 

New Once-A-Month Contraceptive Pill

How much does the prescription prepayment certificate cost?

You can purchase a prescription prepayment certificate for either:

  • £30.25 for 3 months

  • £108.10 for 12 months

What medication is free on the NHS?

You will never have to pay for the following medication/treatment:

  • Contraception - this includes the contraceptive pill, the contraceptive patch, the injection, IUDs and the implant. Condoms are not free however you can usually access them for free at a sexual health clinic.

  • STI tests

  • Any medication given to hospital inpatients

Don't forget to check out all our Health & Fitness discounts to help you save money on everything from gym memberships, nutrition aids and exercise programmes to glasses healthy eating and more!

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